More than half the Fantasy Premier League teams going into 2015/16 have one thing in common: the presence of a flat-track Belgian Bully by the name of Eden Hazard. The managers who have him will even go on record saying things like Hazard is borderline essential, and with his improvement and sheer dominance in Fantasy games last season, that is hard to argue with.
While most can agree that Eden Hazard is the best midfielder to own in Fantasy games, many others are arguing that due to his lofty price he can be ignored and drafted in later on in the season. Cesc Fabregas, who is 2.5 cheaper and finished last season amongst the top five midfielders, for example, is putting forward a solid case as an able replacement. In addition, the Spain international is traditionally a fast starter to the season in racking up points. In contrast, Hazard is perceived as a slow starter. But is that the case? This article aims to look in detail at Hazard’s track record to see if he really can be safely ignored at the start of the season. For each of his last five seasons I’ll give a ‘hare’ or ‘tortoise’ verdict to show whether he had a slow or great start.
2010/11 (Lille, Ligue 1)
Hazard did not deliver attacking returns until the fourth game of what was his first season as a regular starter for Lille. He then proceeded to go nearly a month and a half until his next attacking return. But after the goal that broke his dry spell on November 7, Hazard went on for a nice burst of form for the French side and re-won back the favour of boss Rudi Garcia in his selections (Hazard had briefly been dropped due to his poor performances). Hazard’s form at the start was undeniably disappointing, to the point that his manager was even forced to agree.
Here are some probable factors: He was just 19 years old and there certainly must have been pressure knowing he was expected to perform at a top club in a top league in just his first full season as a starter. In addition, Hazard had been publicly criticized by the Belgian national team manager who talked about him as lazy in training. This must have had an effect on his confidence.
2011/12 (Lille, Ligue 1)
Like the year before, Hazard once again started off with just one attacking return in his first four games (this time it was an assist rather than a goal). However, those four games were different from last year. In the year prior, Hazard mustered just two shots in total over the first four matches; but in the 2011/12 season Hazard took three, five and six shots in his first three games. His shots were also getting more accurate and he was clearly getting better as a player; in the next six Ligue 1 matches he notched four goals and six assists. It’s safe to say the Belgian began the season on fire and would’ve delighted Fantasy owners.
2012/13 (Chelsea, Premier League)
Hazard began his first season in the Premier League on fire first with assists, then goals. His debut saw 63 minutes of play and an assist earned, his next two games brought two more assists with five shots taken by him. Gameweeks 3 and 7 also saw him add goals to his fine start, the first of which was a penalty.
2013/14 (Chelsea, Premier League)
Hazard started poorly, failing to register an attacking return in the first six Premier League matches. It wasn’t until Gamweek 7 when his breakthrough came. In this match he scored two goals and an assist to delight those patient Fantasy managers who had stuck with him through this barren spell.
2014/15 (Chelsea, Premier League)
When people say Hazard is a slow starter, most tend to reference last season where many remember him not immediately dominating games as owners of Diego Costa and Fabregas picked up the points. Hazard meanwhile could only muster one goal in Gameweek 2 during the early part of the season. He also failed to register significant returns during Chelsea’s stellar scoring matches against Swansea (3-6) and Everton (4-2). But are we being unfair on him? He did fire off five shots at the Swansea goal, the same as Costa, who scored a hat-trick.
But it wasn’t until the chill of winter when he scored three goals in three separate games that Hazard emerged as premium midfielder in Fantasy games. Hazard’s early start was poor in terms of Fantasy terms, but given his attacking threat perhaps he was unlucky.
Eden Hazard seems to have a reputation of starting slow but this analysis shows a more complex picture. While he did indeed start poorly in three of the last five seasons in England and France, the two great starts he enjoyed will give his many owners hope.
All in all, going without the league’s best midfielder can still be justified if you think the rest of your team looks THAT much better without the Belgian, but you’ve been warned, you can’t count on a slow start from the 11.5-priced man.